Balotelli sorry, must explain post
Mario Balotelli was swift to apologise but the Liverpool striker has been asked by the Football Association to explain his social media post which appeared to contain anti-Semitic and racist references.
Balotelli reposted an image of the computer game character Super Mario on his Instagram page which included the comment "jumps like a black man and grabs coins like a Jew".
The Liverpool striker quickly deleted the posting on Monday night, claiming he was attempting to be "anti-racist with humour", but the 24-year-old is now facing the prospect of a misconduct charge.
An investigation has begun and part of that involves the FA asking the player for an explanation.
Press Association Sport understands Balotelli, currently injured so not in action against Leicester in the Premier League on Tuesday night, has been given until 6pm on Friday to provide a response to the FA.
FA guidelines regarding when to charge someone over a comment on social media state "deleting an inappropriate posting, whilst advisable, does not necessarily prevent disciplinary action being taken".
The Professional Footballers' Association, meanwhile, issued a statement in which it said: "We strongly condemn all discriminatory language used in any context."
The Italy international will be spoken to by his club.
"We are aware of the posting which has since been promptly deleted by the player. We will be speaking to the player about the issue," said a Liverpool spokesman.
The controversial image of Super Mario appeared with the heading "Don't be a racist". The text then read: "Be like Mario. He's an Italian plumber, created by Japanese people, who speaks English and looks like a Mexican, he jumps like a black man and grabs coins like a Jew."
After criticism began to mount online Balotelli deleted the offending item and responded on his Twitter account: "My Mom is jewish so all of u shut up please". He also described reposting the image as "my Unlucky moment".
Balotelli also posted an apology on Twitter, stating: "I apologize if I've offended anyone.
"The post was meant to be anti-racist with humour. I now understand that out of context may have the opposite effect.
"Not all Mexicans have moustache, not all black people jump high and not all Jewish people love money.
"I used a cartoon done by someone else because it has Super Mario and I thought it was funny and not offensive. Again, I'm sorry."
The minimum FA ban for a race-related offence is five matches.
Jewish representative group, the Board of Deputies of British Jews welcomed the FA's involvement.
"The Board of Deputies of British Jews is concerned by the racist meme shared by footballer Mario Balotelli on his Instagram account and welcomes the FA's probe into the matter," it said in a statement.
"Footballers in particular have big followings of young people and should act responsibly when using social media."
The board's president, Vivian Wineman, added: "Balotelli's sharing of images which use unacceptable language and appeal to classic antisemitic tropes is troubling.
"We were pleased to see his immediate retraction and apology but such language has no place in public discourse. We welcome the decision by the FA to investigate this matter."
The PFA said players must use better judgement when posting on social media accounts.
"The situation regarding Mario Balotelli's Instagram post reinforces the need for continued education and highlights how vigilant players need to be in all of their dealings with social media," the PFA stated.
"We strongly condemn all discriminatory language used in any context.
"We are working with clubs and the FA to ensure players are aware of the impact of inappropriate and unacceptable language regardless of the forum.
"Our club meetings and senior player diversity programmes serve to educate and inform our members in the areas of equality and diversity with a strong emphasis on the misuse of language.
"The matter is now with the FA for investigation under a disciplinary system that the PFA has approved in conjunction with all the other football stakeholders."
Liverpool have been embroiled in a racism row before when striker Luis Suarez, now at Barcelona, was banned for eight matches for racially abusing Manchester United defender Patrice Evra in September 2011.
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers had nothing to add on the Balotelli issue as he had been occupied with the team's match at Leicester.
"I don't know hardly anything about it. I have been busy preparing the team and I will probably find out more about it tomorrow," he said.